Spectacular Things Happen Along the Way: Lessons from an Urban Classroom (Teaching for Social Justice)

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9780807748572: Spectacular Things Happen Along the Way: Lessons from an Urban Classroom (Teaching for Social Justice)
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This is an inspiring story of one teacher who resisted the pressures of “teaching to the test” and created a curriculum based on his students’ needs, wants, and desires. When Brian Schultz challenged his fifth-grade students to name problems in their community, they unanimously focused on replacing their dilapidated school building. This book portrays the students’ attempts at solving this real-world problem through a year-long project that they developed together with their teacher. Throughout his narrative, Schultz shares the difficulties he encountered with the curriculum, the school system, the students, and himself, as well as the successes and discoveries made along the way. This hopeful classroom story:

  • Examines a year-long, social justice curriculum with descriptions of events, activities, and student interactions.
  • Depicts what one determined teacher achieved in the current environment of high-stakes testing, accountability, and standardization.
  • Shows the capabilities, interest, and fortitude of students from a Chicago public housing project.
  • Highlights how teachers can reflect on and transform their own classroom practices.

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About the Author:

Brian D. Schultz is an assistant professor of education and honors faculty at Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) in Chicago. He also taught in the Chicago Public Schools and in 2005 received the Educator of the Year award from the Illinois Computing Educators. He is the recipient of the AERA Narrative & Research SIG's 2008 Early Career Award and the AERA Critical Issues in Curriculum & Cultural Studies SIG 2008 Early Career Award.

Review:

''Brian Schultz offers an important account of a social action project that includes both a vision and concrete strategies for teachers to consider... Most surely, the story can help teachers realize the value of placing student needs and interests at the center of the curriculum.... Even teachers who enter the field committed to teaching for social justice can struggle to envision how their progressive values should impact their teaching. Spectacular Things Happen Along the Way might help. Schultz and the students successfully navigated an accountability driven system so to develop an empowering, as opposed to oppressive, school experience. ... Schultz's narrative shows how students can simultaneously develop activist and subject-specific academic skills prioritized in most educational systems today. His work with his students can stand as a model of the social reconstructionist curriculum orientation, as he shows us how children can be taught to believe in and build a better world. ... Schultz offers an important contribution to literature on the civic engagement of youth.'' -- Schools: Studies in Education

''This book is more than just a recounting of a very interesting year in the classroom. ... Schultz realized that in order to engage his students in their own learning, he also needed to find ways to empower them. [Schultz] demonstrated that project-based learning can be an effective way of students learning important skills. ... This book from Schultz has a lot to offer us all as we consider how to make the educational experience we offer our children truly productive. Read the book, then ponder it.'' -- DailyKos

''A compelling narrative of multicultural uplift that prospective teachers will embrace and find deeply engaging as they ponder their own trajectory into the classroom.'' Educational Studies

''Schultz emphasizes how his young students, forgotten by many, were learning how to produce change and were creating their own education in the process. ... Schultz does describe the way that teachers can utilize ideas that are based in democracy and progressivism, even if their entire curriculum cannot become like his. ... The gap between theory and practice remains, yet Schultz is able to show how these two parts of education do not necessarily need to be adversaries, and how inclusion of student voices can work to connect broad ideas and concrete action.'' --Education and Urban Society

''Sometimes we need an outside voice to tap us on the shoulder and say: 'Snap out of it!' Brian Schultz's ''Spectacular Things Happen Along the Way'' does just that. It also sheds valuable light on the necessity for teachers, administrators, parents and policy-makers to tear themselves free from acquiescing to the often suffocating inertia of standardized education. Not every class or every teacher is capable of such a complete break from standard classroom experiences. However, there is much to be gained from Schultz's example of the possibilities of student-directed (rather than textbook-directed) learning, assessment via portfolio building (rather than high-stakes test scores) and collaborative project work (rather than teaching to the test).'' --The Huffington Post

''Education books such as Spectacular Things Happen Along the Way: Lessons from an Urban Classroom are 'rare.' Writings that trouble prevailing non-critical constructions, that give a true sense of what it is like to teach in an urban school, and that portray African Americans as achievers (other than on athletic fields) are rare. Finding a book where readers can almost feel what it is like to be there as a witness and where the theoretical and methodological approaches to intellectual inquiry are connected to the cultural, political and personal is indeed unusual. Schultz's book attempts to get to the root of the is --The Midwest Book Review

''Brian Schultz offers an important account of a social action project that includes both a vision and concrete strategies for teachers to consider... Most surely, the story can help teachers realize the value of placing student needs and interests at the center of the curriculum.... Even teachers who enter the field committed to teaching for social justice can struggle to envision how their progressive values should impact their teaching. Spectacular Things Happen Along the Way might help. Schultz and the students successfully navigated an accountability driven system so to develop an empowering, as opposed to oppressive, school experience. ... Schultz's narrative shows how students can simultaneously develop activist and subject-specific academic skills prioritized in most educational systems today. His work with his students can stand as a model of the social reconstructionist curriculum orientation, as he shows us how children can be taught to believe in and build a better world. ... Schultz offers an important contribution to literature on the civic engagement of youth.'' -- Schools: Studies in Education

''This book is more than just a recounting of a very interesting year in the classroom. ... Schultz realized that in order to engage his students in their own learning, he also needed to find ways to empower them. [Schultz] demonstrated that project-based learning can be an effective way of students learning important skills. ... This book from Schultz has a lot to offer us all as we consider how to make the educational experience we offer our children truly productive. Read the book, then ponder it.'' -- DailyKos

''A compelling narrative of multicultural uplift that prospective teachers will embrace and find deeply engaging as they ponder their own trajectory into the classroom.'' Educational Studies

''Schultz emphasizes how his young students, forgotten by many, were learning how to produce change and were creating their own education in the process. ... Schultz does describe the way that teachers can utilize ideas that are based in democracy and progressivism, even if their entire curriculum cannot become like his. ... The gap between theory and practice remains, yet Schultz is able to show how these two parts of education do not necessarily need to be adversaries, and how inclusion of student voices can work to connect broad ideas and concrete action.'' --Education and Urban Society

''Sometimes we need an outside voice to tap us on the shoulder and say: 'Snap out of it!' Brian Schultz's ''Spectacular Things Happen Along the Way'' does just that. It also sheds valuable light on the necessity for teachers, administrators, parents and policy-makers to tear themselves free from acquiescing to the often suffocating inertia of standardized education. Not every class or every teacher is capable of such a complete break from standard classroom experiences. However, there is much to be gained from Schultz's example of the possibilities of student-directed (rather than textbook-directed) learning, assessment via portfolio building (rather than high-stakes test scores) and collaborative project work (rather than teaching to the test).'' --The Huffington Post

''Education books such as Spectacular Things Happen Along the Way: Lessons from an Urban Classroom are 'rare.' Writings that trouble prevailing non-critical constructions, that give a true sense of what it is like to teach in an urban school, and that portray African Americans as achievers (other than on athletic fields) are rare. Finding a book where readers can almost feel what it is like to be there as a witness and where the theoretical and methodological approaches to intellectual inquiry are connected to the cultural, political and personal is indeed unusual. Schultz's book attempts to get to the root of the is --The Midwest Book Review

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